Q: My newborn baby has jaundice. What is it and what are the longterm effects?
A: Sr Burgie answers: Baby jaundice, or physiological jaundice, happens quite often in a newborn. The baby looks yellow 24 hours after birth, and this spreads from the face to the body over the next four or five days. The level of jaundice is checked with heel-prick tests and your baby may come home with you if jaundice levels are normal and stable. Otherwise, your baby will be put under the phototherapy or “blue lights’’– this is also possible to do at home using mobile phototherapy lights.
A rarer type of mild jaundice, called
breastmilk jaundice, can happen a few weeks after birth, which resolves by the time the baby is six weeks old. Mothers with babies who have breastmilk jaundice are advised to continue frequent breastfeeding to ensure that the baby does not become sleepy or lethargic. If the jaundice is looking worse, take your baby for another bilirubin test.
More serious jaundice can happen when there is a blood group incompatibility, if the baby has an infection or there is a liver problem. This jaundice begins after four days and becomes progressively worse. The baby’s urine also becomes very dark with pale stools. If this happens, it’s important to contact your doctor. YB